Here are a few ways customer support sucks in many companies:
- You can’t speak to a human
- You search the support contact form or email address forever
- Even when you manage to send a message they ask you to call them
- You never speak to the folks responsible for solving your issue
- Support folks are not polite and empathetic
- They take forever to update you
All of the problems listed above are trivial to fix. I wonder why so many companies get it wrong. We have been conditioned to believe offering great support is extremely difficult. I have found the opposite in my experience.
The number one ingredient is allowing your support folks to be themselves and make decisions on their own. When you are empowering them like that, they enjoy their job more. That leaks into their interactions with customers.
When they can decide how to respond without the fear of that going against some policy or removing points in their performance review, they thrive.
Some companies like to hide support behind a labyrinth of frequently asked questions and search results. I get it. There’s the problem of ticket deflection. If there’s an answer in the documentation or some community article, why bother humans?
There’s a balance of making it easy to find your answer yourself and being able to talk to a human. If you keep that balance you improve people’s perception about how good your customer support is.
When a customer manages to send you a message, just handle that and let them know. Don’t ask them to use some other channel. I see that shit happening a lot in the banking sector. You send an email, they then ask for your phone number so that they can call you. I have already spent 10 minutes describing my problem to you in an email. Why the hell should I repeat everything in a phone call? Can’t you freaking read?
If you absolutely need to switch mediums, don’t ask your customer to repeat themselves. Just do the work for them. Say you want to transfer the conversation from Twitter to an email based support tool. Summarize the conversation for them. Then send them a response from the new thread letting them know you moved the conversation there.
One way to increase the number of humans handling support is hiring more first level support folks. Folks that are not experts in what they are supporting. Those folks will often act as the liaison between the customer and the team responsible for solving the issue at hand. That’s not always working in a smooth way. Nothing worse than having a customer support person not understanding what the hell you are talking about. And it always shows. Don’t pretend it won’t because it freaking will.
Either hire experts or train your folks to become experts themselves.
I often find it easier to hire folks with great communication skills and empathy. Then train them to learn all the aspects of the product and the technology at hand. Way easier compared to finding an expert with empathy and good communication skills. The former folks are also often more humble. That goes a long way with customers.
Creating a hiring process that can help you assess how well people communicate is key. And it is not that hard. Even just talking to someone can immediately give you a hint. More so if you actually give them a home exercise and ask them to describe their thinking process during the next interview.
Keeping customers in the loop
Establish a culture where your support keeps customers up to date. Even when their issue hasn’t been resolved yet. That’s such an easy way to keep everyone happy and informed. Keeping people in the loop is a great and easy way to improve how folks think about your customer support.
There are many things you can do but here is a summary of what we’ve touched today:
- Always have humans talk to your customers (no bots).
- Keep a balance between deflecting tickets and how easy it is for your customers to send you a message.
- Don’t ignore their message and ask them to repeat themselves using a different channel. If you must, do the work for them.
- Gradually make everyone in support an expert and avoid having ignorant first level support if you can get away with it.
- Improve your hiring process to find empathetic folks that can communicate well.
- Create a culture of frequent updates, even when it’s just to tell your customer you haven’t forgotten them.
What are you up to Petros?
Head of Support at GitBook. Building Supportress, an opinionated helpdesk for calm SaaS companies based on my 9 years working and shaping GitHub Support. Writing 2D retro games. Check what I am doing now.